Thursday, November 19, 2015

Final Girl - Interesting Take on the Maze and the Minotaur Trope

In the intro to Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, Lee Child observes that we, humans,  have a way of re-telling tales in veiled new forms, harnessing tropes from stories that have come before but redressing them in more contemporary fashion.

Theseus and the Minotaur becomes James Bond and Dr. No: Bad actor in isolated location perpetrates evil deeds until a nobleman from afar shows up to intervene.

I watched an interesting variation on that trope that gets there by way of the slasher genre and Carol J. Clover's final girl. It's called  appropriately Final Girl, and it's an intriguing and perhaps a bit eccentric thriller with Abigale Breslin and Wes Bentley.

Bentley's Williams, a man who's lost his family to killers. Breslin's the teen version of a character who faced similar horrors as a child and agreed to be reared as a trained warrior to take out other killers. Guess there's a little Hitgirl in there too.

In a town that seems to consist of woods and a diner, a group of young men perpetrate Most Dangerous Game-style mayhem. Dressed in tuxedos, they lure unsuspecting girls to the woods and pursue them in deadly hunts. The body count's pretty high, and one missing girl's the subject of local "unsolved mystery" fascination it seems.

It's a situation in dire need of Veronica's (Breslin) talents, which are considerable thanks to training from William. We get just a taste of that early on.

Placing herself in the role of victim, she sets off to do battle in a prom dress.

There's a bit of timelessness--helped by the fashions--to the setting that vaguely suggests a time few years back in the vein of Stoker. Or perhaps it's just an alternate universe. Either way it evokes an effective atmosphere, and things are engaging as the story builds.

Tension rises not with excessive brutality but with subtle touches like a game of truth or dare that winds the trap for battle.

The killers are a twisted and colorful band headed by Alexander Ludwig, who trained for the role by playing Cato in The Hunger Games. Cameron Bright is the most subdued of the bunch with leanings toward normalcy, while Logan Huffman's dark, giggling and wild eyed. His dance with his axe, Anna Belle, offers a standout moment.

It's definitely a striking refurbishing of its sources, directed by Tyler Shields and conceived by a number of credited writing contributors. A harsher judge might ask for more compelling traps, tricks or twists, but I liked it and found it a nice "something a little different."

In the VOD universe, it's a nice and dark little trail to wander down.

(I watched by Hoopla, but it's available on platforms including iTunes.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What's on the iPod: Locke&Key

I finished the adaptation of "Locke and Key" while on a walk this morning.

I got the free download from Audible a while back, and the 13-hour experience took me a while. It's a great way to re-visit the world of Lovecraft, Mass., and the Locke family envisioned by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez.

I say re-visit, because I think experiencing the comic/graphic novel in its original form is essential for full enjoyment of the audio. And it's a great horror-mystery excursion that really should be on any horror aficionado's "To Read" list. It's a saga in comics form that's comparable to Michael McDowell's "Blackwater" multi-part novel.

As a character notes in the opening of the tale, it's impossible to understand what's going on if you come in in the final chapter of a story.

As the story's protagonists, the Locke children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, discover as the tale unfolds,  a lot has gone on in their ancestral home where they seek refuge after their father's murder. Relevant events stretching back years, even centuries.

Various mysterious keys and a dark and mysterious woman living in the house's well gradually reveal the details over six collected volumes of comics.

The audio follows that and all of the spooky encounters with giant shadow creatures, vicious wolf-creatures, demons and deadly possessed characters.

The power of audio to stimulate the imagination is true and grand, but at times that's where the audio falls down. At times it seems you're hearing powerful action in a dark room. You know something's happening, but you can't quite ascertain what's going on. Contemporary audiodrama writing eschews the old technique of having characters spell out their actions in dialogue: "I've reached the gate, Shadow. I'm aiming my gun at the lock." But at times just a little more guidance would be fun in "Locke and Key."

I think the ideal experience would be reading the graphic novels first. They're all available in book and digital forms. Then listen to the audio as a way of reliving and appreciating the intricate plotting and the finely crafted characters.

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